LAST UPDATED: October 23, 2019
Best Monoculars: See Far While Hiking, Birdwatching, and More
Get a better view of objects at a distance with these monoculars
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON October 23, 2019
A high-quality monocular is more useful than it seems. It holds an advantage over its larger optical rivals, since it’s lightweight and small. It can come in handy if you like hiking, backpacking, or birdwatching. If you are planning to buy one, consider any of the top-rated options in our buying guide below.
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Benefits of Monoculars
- Provides portability. With the compact size and lightweight quality of a monocular, you won't feel burdened as you run around capturing rare scenery and wildlife action. They are also easy to store when not in use and will not take too much space in your backpack. You also won't worry about it getting scratched or hitting surfaces while walking around dense forests or rocky roads.
- Frees up your other hand for more productivity. A monocular requires only one of your hands to operate, so you can carry other essential stuff with you, such as maps or tumblers, while bird watching. You can also do other things, such as make calls or hold onto something to protect yourself from falling or slipping without interrupting your rare moments with nature.
- Helps save money. A monocular is cheaper than binoculars, so if you are on a budget but still want to invest in an optical device that you can bring along on your adventures, then getting one is highly recommended. Just make sure that despite the cheap price, you can still get a better quality monocular with a decent magnification.
Types of Monocular
Night Vision Monoculars
This type of monocular is primarily used at night, mostly for night hunting. It is great for locating targets in the dark. You can choose the technology on which it can operate. You have two technology options to choose from: infrared and thermal-imaging. Both subtypes of a night vision monocular can also be used during the day. You simply have to turn off the infrared or thermal imaging mode.
An infrared monocular is a subtype of a night vision monocular. It does not use light to illuminate things in the dark. Rather, it uses a different wavelength. The best thing about infrared monoculars is its cheap price. Even for a cheap price, you can get a decent monocular that is invisible, so you won't distract animals you are hunting or observing. However, there are infrared monoculars that have a visible red light, so choose carefully before purchasing one.
Thermal Imaging Monoculars
Thermal imaging monoculars are another subtype of night vision monoculars. They are very useful at night because they can detect animals that are good at hiding or camouflaging. By detecting heat, they use it to form an image of objects in the dark. What's great about this night vision monocular is that it does not have a visible red light that some infrared monoculars have. That means you do not have to worry about scaring animals away with it.
It is a given that monoculars are already compact, except for spotting scopes that fall under the category of monocular telescopes. However, there are monoculars that are smaller than average. They are about a couple of inches smaller than regular monoculars and are enough to fit in your pocket or purse. The disadvantage of these monoculars, however, is that they have smaller magnifications as well. They also have a smaller lens diameter. Despite their less powerful specs, they are quite cheap and good enough for simple viewing activities.
Wingspan Optics claims to have the best bird watching optics to offer. It offers a wide variety of binoculars and monoculars for the needs of bird watchers. Its monoculars, in particular, are high-powered despite their lightweight and compact qualities. One of Wingspan Optics' best monoculars is theWingspan Optics Titan 12x50 High Powered Monocular Scope.
Vortex Optics is an American manufacturer of optical equipment for various purposes. It produces riflescopes, binoculars, monoculars, and red dots. Vortex Optics products can be a bit pricey but their looks alone are enough to tell you that they are durable and made of high-quality materials. TheVortex Optics Solo Monocular, for instance, is a good-looking monocular that provides crisp and clear images.
Barska has been producing sports optical equipment for almost 25 years. It is a company dedicated to producing quality products and is open to incorporating new technology that can further improve their quality. Aside from precision sport optics, they also offer the public other products like biometric safes and high-tech travel cases. Its monoculars, like theBarska Waterproof Level Monocular, feature premium optical coating and ergonomic rubber coating.
- Under $60: Monoculars under $60 are decent optical equipment that are enough to let you appreciate animals and nature even with their less powerful specs. They are for people who enjoy intense outdoor activities without worrying about scratching or breaking their monoculars in the process.
- $60-$170: Monoculars within this price range are already high-powered and have optimal brightness and clarity. They are even waterproof and quite durable. However, they lack the look that matches these qualities. They are for people who just enjoy nature viewing and bird watching in silence without anyone chatting them up about their equipment.
- $170 and above: These are premium monoculars that are ultra HD and deliver super clear images. This price range also includes monoculars that have power specs in terms of magnification, prism, and make. These expensive monoculars are for nature and wildlife enthusiasts who are quite invested in their hobby.
There is no point to a monocular if you cannot see anything through it. That is why magnification is one of its essential features. Keep in mind that a 12x magnification is not always the best one. It may be great for a pair of binoculars, but not for monoculars. Monoculars are already at their best with a 6x or 8x magnification.
Lens coating and diameter should also be considered when buying a monocular. Purchasing coated lenses are highly recommended for use during cloudy weather because they enhance image clarity and brightness. In terms of diameter, a bigger lens diameter does not guarantee a brighter image.
Ease of Use
Using monoculars over your eyeglasses can be tiring, so try to find a monocular that is comfortable to use even with your eyeglasses on. Find out if a monocular has an eye relief feature.
- Special Features. Night vision mode, waterproof, fog-proof, and shock-proof features are just a few special features a monocular can have. Choose a monocular that has special features that match your needs and preferences.
- Prism. A monocular that has poor prism quality generates images that are dim and blurry. It can also cause vertigo. Therefore, you can choose a monocular that has either a roof prism or Porro prism. Both offer good-quality images.
- Field of View. A narrow field of view can help you focus on smaller areas but in great detail. A wide field of view, on the other hand, lets you see the whole picture. For most people, a monocular that offers the middle ground of these two types of field of view is the best choice.
Best Monocular Reviews & Recommendations 2019
This Gosky monocular is a 12 x 50 high power prism monocular that comes with a smartphone holder that can be perfect for wildlife photographers who are giving their professional cameras a break.
Aside from providing superior light transmission and brightness for a high-quality image, it is also quite durable. Its waterproof, fog-proof, and shock-proof qualities make this monocular ideal for intense action-packed outdoor activities and can survive harsh weather conditions.
However, using your smartphone with this monocular can be a bit tricky. The additional weight from your smartphone makes this monocular a tad heavier. It is also prone to vibrations, so taking photos can be difficult and might result in blurry or out-of-focus photos.
This high-definition wide-view monocular offers a retractable eyepiece and multi-coated optical glass lens that help guarantee bright, clear, and crisp images.
This monocular is easy to hold as it is installed with a no-slip comfort molded grip. This special grip is lightweight and reduces vibrations for comfort and functionality. Speaking of functionality, this monocular is great for any outdoor activity that requires viewing such as concerts, bird watching, hunting, archery, hiking, camping, boating, target-shooting, and mountain climbing.
Its magnification power, however, can be underwhelming at only 6x30. It is not a long-range monocular, so clarity then is distorted as range increases. Do not expect clear images of objects from far distances.
This Bushnell monocular is an ultra hd monocular with 10x magnification and 42-mm BAK-4 prism. It has exceptional optics, which includes multi-coated lens and ED Prime Glass, making it ideal for low light conditions.
Aside from its stellar magnification and focus, it is also very lightweight and compatible with most mounting accessories. It is also very comfortable and easy to use because of its eyecaps. This monocular is also very durable as it is shock-absorbent, fog-resistant, and waterproof.
The disadvantage of this monocular is its hefty price tag. If it were cheaper, this monocular could easily dethrone the Gosky one. Also, it is difficult to find spare parts for this monocular in case they break or need replacement.
Roxant returns to our list with its High Definition Ultra-Light Mini Monocular Pocket Scope. It’s a compact and easy-to-carry monocular that measures 7 x 18 inches, so it’s small enough to fit in a purse or pocket. The lens is developed out of a high-grade optical glass with multi-coated optics that increase light filtration and overall viewing.
One of the best benefits of this monocular is its grip. It is constructed with rigid rubber pads that make holding it much easier. This also reduces vibrations and makes it much more steady in your hand. It’s a great monocular for bird watching, hiking, hunting, and really any outdoor activity. It comes with a lanyard and carrying case as well.
One minor flaw is it can be considered too small for people with larger hands. This may make it more difficult to hold and may also make it bothersome to control the zoom. Another thing is the field of vision isn’t the widest. Plus, it may not be the most durable little monocular, as it feels a bit cheap.
This is a high-tech-looking monocular from Vivreal built with a 12 x 50 power magnification. It features a 50mm lens diameter that provides a clear and bright view. It may be small, but it is quite powerful and is an excellent choice of monocular for birdwatching. It has a field of view of 360 feet, so you can spot a bird from quite a distance away.
As far as its construction goes, it is built with a BAK-4 Prism and FMS multi-layer green film. Yet, the premium glass doesn’t add to its weight, as it weighs only 8 ounces. It even comes with a flexible tripod so you can mount it on the ground, and a cloth bag for safe storage. You can even attach your smartphone to it so you get a larger field of view without having to hold it to your eye.
However, it may be difficult to properly attach your phone to the monocular, as lining up the camera with the lens can also be annoying. Another downside is it isn't the most stable monocular. Locking in the shot you desire can be difficult with just one hand. Also, its magnification may be less than what is written.
This is perhaps one of the most futuristic-looking monoculars to make our list. If they seem familiar to you, they are a near perfect match for ones seen in “Star Wars” films, yet they aren’t from a galaxy far, far away. The Solomark’s feature multi-coated glass, a high sensitivity sensor, an integrated color LCD screen, and an IR LED illuminator.
All that fancy jargon means they are a great all-purpose monocular. Along with being able to use them during the day for sporting events or what have you, their best feature is doubling as a night vision monocular. The dark vision allows you to see up to 330 feet at night and even take pictures and videos as well. It has a working battery life of five hours and supports a 1GB to 32GB SD card.
One of the biggest downsides is the amount of grain you get through the viewfinder. It’s worse at night and can make viewing images more difficult. It also isn’t the most user-friendly and may take a while to get used to. The controls can be confusing and can be a pain if you’re just starting out using it.
The Gosky High Definition Monocular Telescope comes with a 12 x 55 high power magnification that allows you to see images up to 12x closer. It’s a great monocular for going on a hike, watching birds, or just looking at the scenery. They include a BAK-4 Prism for improved sight, a multi-coated green objective lens coating, and they filter in light for a brighter image.
It is built out of a durable rubber armor that increases its resistance to drops and weather. The rubber also makes it easier and more comfortable to grip. The monocular is waterproof, fogproof, dustproof, and shockproof. It is capable of seeing up to 325 feet and has a field angle of 6.5 degrees.
However, the eyepiece isn’t the most durable and may not be the most comfortable. The focus knob moves quite quickly so you will need a soft touch in order to focus an image. Plus, the phone mount can be difficult to connect and use.
The Feemic Monocular Telescope comes with a high-definition wide angle lens. It includes a BAK-4 green film prism, a powerful 8X magnification zoom, and a 42mm objective diameter wide lens that makes it capable of seeing up to 360 feet. It’s small size, doubled with its included strap, makes it perfect for single-hand use as well.
The monocular is lightweight and can be taken nearly anywhere due to it being waterproof, fogproof, and dust-proof. It’s also equipped with a durable rubber finish for a more enhanced grip while also making it able to withstand drops and weather. It even works well in low-light environments.
However, they aren’t the most steady monoculars and will require a stable hand in order to see clearly. It also doesn’t have the most powerful magnification, so you may not be able to see quite that far. That also means you will have to get closer to the object in question in order to see it more clearly.
- Protect your monocular, and always store it in a case when it’s not in use. It will protect the unit from dirt, moisture, and collision damage.
- Use the cloth provided by the manufacturer or any other lint-free cloth to clean the lens. You can dab it with an alcohol-based solution for the best results.
- Avoid handling the monocular with dirty or greasy hands. Use wet wipes to clean dirt off your hands to avoid contaminating the lens.
- Most monoculars advertise to be waterproof, but not all gadgets live up to the hype. Try to keep the unit in dry conditions, and wipe it dry before storing it in the case.
Q: Is a monocular better than a binocular?
A: A monocular is only half the weight of a binocular and easier to carry and handle. However, it can get uncomfortable to hold if you plan on using it for a long period of time. You should opt for binoculars for lengthy observations since they are more comfortable on the eyes.
Q: Do all monoculars have night-vision capabilities?
A: Most monoculars on the market can only be used in the daytime, and some special models have great vision in low-light conditions. It is possible to find a monocular with sophisticated night-vision technology. Such models use infrared technology to light up images in the dark. They are, however, more expensive.
Q: Can I use a monocular with my glasses?
A: If you wear glasses, you have to leave a space of at least 0.5 inches between your eye and the eyepiece for a better view. That space is referred to as eye relief. You have to either adjust or remove the eyecap to get a better view. The same case applies to sunglasses. People who don’t wear glasses don’t have to worry about eye relief.
Our top choice for the best monocular is the Wingspan Optics Explorer. It’s easy to operate, offers great image quality, and has a strap slot for easier access.
Our budget pick is the Authentic Roxant Grip Scope. It’s affordable and will give you great value for the price you pay.